It’s the Year of the Woman in Bel Air
Celebrating Hannah Moore, an African American businesswoman who died as a millionaire
~Kathi Santora, The Writing Studio
That Hannah Moore was a business owner, landlord, community icon and education trailblazer in the early 20th century was all the more remarkable because she was an African American woman with a grade-school education.
Hannah and Stephen Moore, Sr. owned a general store on Bond Street (roughly where Courtland Hardware is now located) at a time when Bel Air’s African Americans had limited shopping options. The store was such a fundamental piece of the community that it may not have had a formal name. Later, seeing that neighbors had few places to socialize outside of home and church, the couple built an adjacent restaurant that came to be known as “Hannah Moore’s Beer Garden” or, to regulars, “The Place.”
Hannah was a formidable force, says her grandson Stephen Moore III, who recalls her as savvy, smart, gruff, generous and hard-working. Few knew that she quietly stashed away a good portion of her profits. Hannah understood that both land ownership and education were keys to a sound future. She purchased land and properties surrounding her downtown Bel Air businesses.
Concerned that African American children had no educational options after eighth grade, she approached School Superintendent C. Milton Wright with an offer: she would donate land to start the Bel Air Colored High School. The Rosenwald Fund, a national philanthropic group dedicated to furthering education for African Americans, matched her donation. Today the Historic Bel Air Colored High School, dedicated to Hannah Moore, remains at 205 Hays Street and is the current home of Habitat for Humanity.
All of Hannah and Stephen Moore’s six children attended higher education and pursued professional careers. With little fanfare, Moore left a remarkable legacy that exists to this day. Sadly, there are no known photos of her.